Project: Tote Bag

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* includes instructions for a fairly simple tote bag. After making this project, I decided that I would make a tote rather than use gift wrap whenever possible.

I used the following supplies (2 different bags):

Bag 1:

Total Materials Cost: $10.77

Bag 2:

Total Materials Cost: $6.06

Total time per bag: about 2 hours

The book instructions were straight forward. Be careful with your cuts though, as a half yard will give you exactly the right amount of fabric for bag and handles. If you don’t cut carefully (as I didn’t for my first bag) you may not have enough fabric left for the handles.

When aligning your seams to make the bottom of the bag, make sure that you peek inside the bag to make sure the seams are aligned there too before actually sewing.

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Completed bag with handles from scraps!

I also made my handles a little wider than the book recommended, but I think this is a matter of personal preference.

This project is incredibly forgiving of errors. I know that the bottom of the bag is uneven but its not obvious from just looking it. The bag has held up well to use. I frequently carry a laptop in mine without issues. Its also reversible, so you can switch your look at any time!

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Using the bag!

Remember what I said about gifts? I made one for Alek’s mom for Mother’s Day along with a set of napkins to match the bag.

I may now be addicted to making tote bags. That’s probably ok though!

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Project: Relaxing Eye Mask

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* includes a relaxing eye mask project. The project has you create an eye mask filled with lentils and your choice of pretty smelling things.

I used the following supplies:

Total Materials Cost (1 mask): $15.41

A second mask only incurred the cost of a second fat quarter.

Total Materials Cost (2 masks): $17.72

Time Spent: About 2 hours

The first order of business in this project is making the mask’s ties. The ties are challenging because they are tiny and need to be turned inside out after sewing. I pulled the first tie inside out using only my fingers (pulling a tiny bit up at a time) with much frustration. Deborah recommends using a knitting needle to assist with this step. Unfortunately the ball on mine was too big to be of help. So I tried to use the point of my knitting needle and successfully poked a hole in the fabric (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻.  My fingers were cramped after I finished the first one. I still had the longer of the two ties to invert!

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Not another!

I found a crochet hook to help me out. The longer tie was a bit too long for my crochet hook to be entirely effective though. At my complaints, Alek found me a drink stirrer with a ball on the bottom – I had the second tie inverted in no time flat!

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The ties and the tools for the job

Stitching this piece wasn’t very difficult, I just went slowly to take care with the curves. I made the lentil, rose petal, and orange peel mixture to fill it with. I asked Alek to hold the mask while I filled it, I’m pretty sure that filling required two people. Finally I hand stitched the seam where I left the opening for filling.

The finished product has a nice romantic scent and feels nice and cool! Its a great mother’s day gift!

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The finished product!

I had enough of the lentil, rose petal, orange peel mixture to make a second one of these. I choose a white and grey fat quarter from the Massdrop Modern Summer Anapola Fat Quarter Bundle. This one made a wonderful bridal shower gift.

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Angry bird calms down while modeling a relaxing eye mask.

*These are Amazon Associate links

Piped Throw Pillows

I’ve been working through Deborah Moebes’s Stitch By Stitch* over the past 2 months. At the beginning of April I peeked ahead so I could order supplies for future projects and have them on hand when I got to them. I spent some time considering the fabric for the Piped Throw Pillow project. We already have throw pillows that match our couch and they don’t need to be replaced. But what if I made pillows that fit certain themes? That got me thinking about the Game of Thrones premiere. After a bit of searching I found Game of Thrones house sigil fabric on spoonflower.com.

The spoonflower fabric is a bit expensive, so I made a practice pillow first.

I used the following supplies:

The Force Awakens Pillow:

Total Cost for Force Awakens Pillow: $16.76 ($12.27 without Quilter’s tape, as it used very little.)

Game of Thrones Pillow:

Total Cost for Game of Thrones Pillow: $20.75 ($15.26 without Quilter’s tape, as it used very little.)

I didn’t have bias tape on hand for these pillows so I had to make some. A quick skim of the instructions informed me that I wouldn’t need to bother with ironing the bias tape, as it would just need to be used to wrap around the cord.

It was a bit tricky to get the piping attached evenly to the edges of the fabric, but with lots of pins I mostly got through it.

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Pinning the cord down was important!

This was my first ever attempt to install a zipper and it went well. The instructions in the book were good. I couldn’t actually find the recommended 1/2″ quilters tape, so I used 2 1/4″ strips on each pillow.

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1/4″ strips of quilters tape on either side of the zipper seam

This also worked out well, as I used the seam itself as a guide to align the tape.

Because the fabric needed to be cut away form the piping in order to make the 90 degree quarter angle at the corners actually make the turn, the finished products have small holes between the pillow and the corner piping. I’m not sure how to resolve that. On the Game of Thrones pillow I tried to leave more of the piping fabric at the corner so that when I turned the pillow inside out after sewing it would grip. That didn’t work as well as I would have hoped.

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Tiny hole in the finished product

Overall, I was happy with both pillows! They are neat looking and great for themed parties! I was most worried about zipper installation but the instructions in the book were so clear that it was very easy. Each pillow took about 2 hours to make. I was especially happy to have the Game of Thrones pillow on display for our Game of Thrones season 6 premier party!

*Amazon Associates Link

Project: Picnic Place Mat

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch By Stitch* includes a Picnic Place Mat project.  I was initially unexcited by this one as I don’t really need a picnic placement. However, I’m determined to go through to book to learn the skills taught by each project. Midway through my first one, I realized that a rollout pouch with pockets is useful for many things! I made two of these, one for me as a scissor holder and one for Alek to hold his paint brushes.

I used the following supplies:

The first Mat:

  • 3/4 yards woven gingham blue which I purchased at $1.99/yard
  • Thread
  • Ribbon that I had around.

The second Mat:

Total Materials Cost: $10.24

This is the first project that actually makes use of the bias tape that the book suggests making as an early project. My first mat was a bit of a disaster because my bias tape was completely uneven so it was difficult to get the edges to look good.

This project triggered me to become better at making bias tape. After getting the required tools and nailing down how to make bias tape, I tried again.

The next attempt was far better! The wider, more even bias tape gave the whole thing a more professional look. Alek’s still isn’t completely perfect but the flaws are a bit harder to see on a first look!

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My starting point near the bottom of the back is a bit messy.

I messed up the ties on both of these in slightly different ways. On the first one, I misunderstood the instruction to fold the tie in half before attaching and folded it in half along the width of the ribbon rather than the length. This means that tying it is a bit difficult.

On Alek’s, I completely forgot to add the twill tape when I was stitching down the bias tape.  I ended up stitching it just under the seam of the twill tape, but it left a visible line.

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The twill tape ribbon is attached a bit awkwardly here.

There are several aspects of this project which require a good bias tape. The ironed fold of the bias tape is used as a stitch guide after you’ve aligned the bias tape edge with your mat’s raw edge. If you don’t have an even edge on your bias tape this completely fails. This definitely happened to me on the first project.

Additionally, “Stitching the Ditch”, which requires you to restitch at the seem of the bias tape on the front of this project was far easier when the bias tape was wider and the fabric that the bias tape was made from was thicker. With the very lightweight gingham, I had a really hard time pulling the seam apart. It was much easier using the quilting weight cotton.

I’ve been using the gingham to hold my sewing tools. It is good for keeping things together but scissors tend to be too heavy and fall out easily. I have a vague plan to make a similar project in leather or canvas for myself!

 

Project: Fancy Napkins with Mitered Corners

Deborah Moebes’s Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* has a project teaching how to make cloth napkins. It’s a great beginner project, as the materials are cheap and you get to practice cutting and sewing straight lines.

I used the following supplies:

  • 1 1/4 yards woven gingham blue which i purchased at $1.99/yard
  • Thread
  • 1 1/4 yards purple floral fabric which was a gift.

Total Materials Cost: $2.50

The first part of this project just has you over cast the edges of your napkin. I’ve already talked about my initial difficulties with overcasting, so I won’t go into details here. In summary: before getting the hang of overcasting, my napkins were a disaster.

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Bad overcast stitches are pulling, making the napkin unable to lie flat even after ironing.

The next part of the project instructs the reader to fold over and miter the corners of the napkins, and then topstitch to keep the folds in place. I used the machine’s fancier stitches for the top stitching.  This made the napkins look nicer. Sadly since I was starting with a bad base (from the overcasting), my napkins still weren’t great.

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The uneven pull of the napkin made for messy folding and topstitching.

The final part of this project has you fold the edges, iron, and then fold again. No overcasting needed! This was pretty great for me, as I hadn’t yet learned the secret of overcasting when I tried this part of the project.

I went for a different fabric this time, my napkins are far better than the blue and white checked napkins. My stitches aren’t as straight as I’d like them to be but I’m not embarrassed to use them!

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With the raw edge folded under, overcasting isn’t required.

 

 

This project was definitely worth doing for the practice, especially since the the cost of materials was so low.  I find practicing my making something to be way more fulfilling than sitting around stitching straight lines just to get experience. We even put out the nicer set of napkins this weekend when we had guests over!

Making Bias Tape

Early on in Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time, Deborah teaches readers to make bias tape. Bias tape is made from thin strips cut along the stretchiest length of the fabric (the bias) – generally this means diagonal cuts from corner to corner.

You can use bias tape to hide raw edges while adding a cute trim to your project.

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The yellow trim on this project is made from bias tape.

There are some tricks to getting a long continuous piece of bias tape. The trick Deborah uses (also on her blog) is to make a weird tube so you only have to cut once. This left me with uneven edges and nearly unusable bias tape time and again.

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This is “completed” bias tape with edges ironed down.  Notice the uneven edge?

After much frustration from not getting nice edges, I started thinking about how I could achieve the same results by sewing smaller strips together after cutting individually. Made Everyday with Dana had the solution I was looking for! Now I could cut short strips using my rotary cutter rather than the scissors and the edges were straight and clean!

Next up: ironing down the edges of the bias tape.  On my first few attempts, I used a Clover Hot Hemmer and Clover Iron Finger.  The folds were uneven, and I was super frustrated. I was working with 60″ of bias tape – folding and measuring was tedious to say the least!

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Measuring and folding with the hot hemmer.

“There has to be another way!” In Stitch By Stitch Deborah uses a Bias Tape Maker, which she says is not required. I respectfully disagree. If you’re going to make your own bias tape GO BUY THESE NOW! You can buy the off-brand set of 4 for less than $10. They saved me so much time and frustration, totally worth it!

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A tool to make nice even folds for me?  Yes, please!

 

Of course, you can always just purchase bias tape if you don’t want to make your own. However if you make your own you get to decide exactly what colors and prints work best with your project.

Overcasting

My sister, Jess, has been sewing for over a decade. Naturally, when I mentioned to her that I’d bought a sewing machine, she offered lots of awesome advice based on her experiences. She also gave me a copy of Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time* by Deborah Moebes for my birthday.

One of the first projects in Stitch By Stitch is cloth napkins. The book builds from very basic cloth napkins with overcast edges to a more formal napkin with mitered edges. We’ll talk about the mitered edges later – today, I’d like to address overcasting.

Overcasting is one method of finishing the raw edge of your fabric so that it won’t fray. For the simplest of the napkins, Deborah recommends overcasting the edge using a zig-zag stitch. Unfortunately, as easy as that sounded, I couldn’t get it to work.

The primary and most frustrating issue was that the fabric kept getting pushed down into the needle throat plate, causing the machine to completely jam. The jamming, panic, and unjamming are worthy of their own post so I won’t go into detail now.

After I’d resolved that though, the edges puckered and curled in. The napkins looked terrible. Even after ironing them, they won’t lay flat because the edge tension caused puckering and uneven pulling.

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Notice the ripples.

I finished four napkins, convinced that with practice it would get better. Much of my issue was getting this very lightweight cotton to feed through the machine when I was working so close to the edge. I tried changing my stitch length and width but couldn’t get anything to work.

It was time for some internet troubleshooting. I very quickly found references to an overcasting foot after a quick Google search. I went to my sewing machine manual. Not only did my machine have the foot, the manual has a section on overcasting. I was using the wrong foot as well as the wrong stitch setting for my machine. The solution had been on my desk the entire time!

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The overcasting foot

The foot itself is neat. It has a little rod down the center which isn’t attached in the back. It wraps the thread around the rod as you stitch at the edge. The thread slides right off when the feed dogs advance the fabric.

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Notice the white thread to the right of the needle is wrapped around the rod.

Empowered with my new knowledge, I was able to do some overcasting before washing new fabric to keep it from fraying! The right circle below contains my new, clean overcast edge while the left is a closeup of my attempt to zig-zag stitch along the edge.

Achievement Unlocked: Overcasting!

 

*This is an Amazon Associates link.